I don’t have to tell you that analytics are important, but you might not be aware of just how good they can be! I’m talking really good; superhero good.
Applying powerful analytics to our society can make it the best it can be. It can help all of us – each and every one of us – be safe, secure and happy in our communities. This is not a dream. By wielding the right kind of insight, it can be a reality.
Analytics and Homelessness
For the developed world, homelessness is a point of deep, deep shame. In Australia, 105,000 people exist without a roof over their heads. In England, where the number of homeless people living in London grew by 75% in only four years up to 2013, the number is 112,070. In the USA and Canada respectively, the figures are over 610,000 and 235,000. This is a true blight on our societies.
But some believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These people believe that analytics – a discipline usually reserved for determining business insight – represents a modern solution to an age old problem.
Used in this context, analytics works in much the same way as it would when applied to business. The software processes the data, then presents the raw form of the data in a far more manageable way. From this, we are able to draw insight, develop a better understanding of what is going on, and, crucially, we are able to develop a strategy for how to combat the issue and put it right.
In this sense, data projects like HomelessnessAnalytics.org become vital tools to use as we build a fairer society for everyone. We must move closer to a society in which no one is excluded. One robust enough to prevent any individual from falling through the cracks. Analytics has a big role to play in this.
Assisting with Employment
One of the pillars of a high-functioning society is employment. If all members of our society can be free from financial anxieties, exploitation in the workplace, or employment uncertainty, all of us will benefit. Analytics is helping us move closer to this situation.
A recent article published by Ars Technica highlighted a study in Spain, which examined how people react in a region following a factory closure or other mass redundancy. The study examined data from geo-located tweets – 19.6 million in total – and discovered huge discrepencies in user behavior in areas of high employment and areas which had experienced major layoffs.
In areas of high employment, users were active on the Twitter network much earlier in the morning than their counterparts in low employment zones. Users were also more likely to travel more in areas with high levels of employment, and – interestingly – the grammatical correctness of their tweets was found to be higher.
These data points may seem innocuous, but in fact they could prove incredibly useful. If local and national government offices can gain an understanding of what happens to a community when employment rates begin to fall, they can take the appropriate measures sooner rather than later. Long term low employment can cripple a community. The sooner the situation can be reversed, the better.
By developing a high level of behavioral understanding, local authorities can begin to look to the future, predicting future employment reductions and reacting accordingly. Get this right, and the livelihood of so many people in a community can be safeguarded.
Building the Smart City
As society has developed, so has the city. What were once relatively basic collections of dwellings, commercial areas and industry, are now sophisticated organisms, bringing together culture, security, economic prosperity, education and leisure in one, ultra-convenient location.
This has not happened by accident. As early cities expanded, this expansion brought with it new problems; problems which had to be solved effectively. Through empirical evidence gathering and a profound understanding of the needs of a community, planners and developers did their best to surmount these obstacles.
Now, it is the turn of analytics. Recently, The Innovation Enterprise ran an article detailing how analytics can be applied to building the smart cities of tomorrow. They broke down the way in which analytics will support the growth and development of these cities and surmount any problems along the way.
The article points to examples which have already been implemented in major modern cities across the world. One such example was London, which harnessed powerful analytics to bolster its transport network while hosting the 2012 Olympics. During that time, an average of 18 million journeys were made across London every day, but Transport for London’s analytics-based modelling and forecasting initiatives allowed the network to hold firm.
Scaling for Tomorrow
With the smart city of tomorrow built, what comes next? How do we secure a good quality of life for its inhabitants and all of those inhabitants to come? Insight and analysis has its part to play here also.
The idea of a city outgrowing its surroundings is a familiar one in history. It happened to London and to New York in the 19th Century. To Beijing and Sao Paulo in the 20th. It represents a major challenge for up and coming hotbeds of prosperity like Mumbai and Jakarta. The fact is, once a booming economy makes the good times roll, those good times can very quickly turn bad.
By applying analytics to the situation, we can take steps to avoid this, laying down the foundations of a different narrative for the future. Through analytics we can achieve genuinely pro-active planning strategies and then implement those strategies ahead of time.
One of the root causes of chaotic, haphazard growth has been this reactive approach to planning. A problem arises in a city, so the local authority steps in to remedy that problem. This is fine, until that ‘solution’ causes a problem somewhere else, which then needs to be remedied. Proper forecasting, through analytics, avoids this problem altogether, and a truly cohesive, harmonious, and functional society becomes possible by harnessing data.
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